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China to Correct Great-Wall-in-Space Myth

The myth about China's Great Wall has come tumbling down, thanks to the nation's first man in space.

For decades, the Chinese believed the myth that their most famous creation was visible from space. Elementary-school textbooks in the world's most populous nation still proclaim that the structure can be seen by the naked eye of an orbiting cosmonaut.

But the myth was shattered upon Yang Liwei's return from a 21 1/2-hour space tour last year, so schoolbooks will be rewritten, the Beijing Times newspaper reported.

The wall stretches thousands of miles across northern China but is only a few yards wide, making it impossible to see from space.

A Ministry of Education official in charge of teaching materials for China's schools said the textbook's publisher was informed to stop printing the essay that recounts the falsehood.

The essay is part of China's standard sixth-grade language and literature textbook, the paper said quoting the official, surnamed Zang.

It reads: "A cosmonaut rising radiantly said 'Flying in my spaceship, surveying our Earth from space, I am able to make out two constructions with my bare eyes: One is a Dutch sea embankment, the other is China's Great Wall!'"

The paper said, "Having this falsehood printed in our elementary school textbooks is probably the main cause of the misconception being so widely spread."

Its report quoted Wang Xiang, a delegate to the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body to the national legislature meeting in Beijing this week.

During this year's meeting, Wang submitted a proposal to the government asking that school books and school curricula be amended to stop spreading the Great Wall space myth.

The myth "is a disadvantage to the real knowledge acquired by our elementary school students," Wang was quoted as saying.

The Web site for the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration says that while many manmade objects can be seen from space without magnification, the Great Wall is not among them.

The wall is not that wide and made from native materials that match the color of the surrounding landscape, the NASA Web site says.
(Xinhua News Agency March 15, 2004)

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